The internet could collapse in eight years due to a ‘capacity crunch’, experts have warned.
Our ever-increasing demand for faster data, streaming services and more powerful computers is pushing our communications structure to the limit and led to a looming web crisis, it’s claimed.
Leading engineers, physicists and telecoms companies warn that cables and fibre optics that carry information to people’s laptops, tablets and smartphones will soon reach their limit and not be able to take any more data.
Internet firms could be forced to lay down more cables just to cope with demand – with the additional cost borne by consumers.
So far, engineers have managed to keep ahead of demand, increasing internet speeds 50-fold in the last decade alone.
But some experts believe that scientific advances have reached their limit and fibre optics can take no more data.
Professor Andrew Ellis, who has co-organised a meeting at London’s Royal Society later this month to try to avert the crisis, told the Daily Mail that it would lead to a dramatic increase in costs – and higher bills.
“The deployment to market is about six to eight years behind the research lab – so within eight years that will be it, we can’t get any more data in,” he said.
“Demand is increasingly catching up. It is growing again and again, and it is harder and harder to keep ahead.
“We have done very well for many years to keep ahead. But we are getting to that point where we can’t keep going for ever.”
Until now, internet firms have simply sent more and more data down the single fibre as demand rises.
But as optical fibres reach their physical capacity they cannot transfer any more light.
Professor Ellis, of Aston University, said that putting down extra lines will create a “completely different business model” and companies needed to find out whether British consumers are prepared to pay more for the extra capacity.
He added that transferring more data also created higher electricity demands and we will run out of energy in 15 years.
But Andrew Lord, head of optical research at BT and a visiting professor at Essex University, said internet will not collapse scientists will come up with a solution.
Professor Lord, who will address the Royal Society meeting, said storing information in large ‘server farms’, rather than transferring it, would take the strain off the network.
A spokesman for the Royal Society said: “Communication networks face a potentially disastrous ‘capacity crunch’ as demand for data online outstrips the capacity of the optical fibres that carry internet signals.”
He added that the meeting on May 11 will discuss what can be done to avert the crunch and the impact from doing nothing.